By Maureen Post Special to Published Apr 21, 2009 at 2:39 PM

In the last two years, new organizations have spurred Milwaukeeans to start networking.

First, there was FUEL Milwaukee specializing in networking for companies and their employees, followed by MIMA Milwaukee focused on networking Milwaukee's marketing professionals. Most recently Newaukee surfaced with a brand new approach and a much different goal.

Newaukee is a member based group hosting bi-monthly meetings but unlike FUEL and MIMA, networking wasn't an intended aspect of their initial launch. Unlike other groups who urge networking between professionals and employers, Newaukee wants members to get to know Milwaukee and in turn, get to know each other.

"We encourage people to get out, meet new people, and meet Milwaukee.  The group isn't about "drinking" or "networking", but both seem to happen every week.  Our main focus is to introduce members to some new people and some of the fantastic establishments here in Brew City," Ian Abston, founder of Newaukee, says.

Including local historical facts, hot neighborhood weekend options and re-caps of past events in weekly emails, Abston and Newaukee not only want to connect Milwaukeeans to one another but connect residents to the city of Milwaukee.

"I think Newaukee is a great asset in this economy both for our attendees and the bars we are going to.  Milwaukeeans benefit from excellent drink and food specials, the ability to meet people that inform them about local events and job openings.  And the establishments benefit from Newaukee showcasing their space," Abston says.

Every other week, Newaukee holds an event at a different local bar run by two or three organization members. Specials on food and drink urge members to support the local establishment plus the focus on live, local music intensifies a sense of community connection.

"With the amount of people at each event we can't just go anywhere, so we like to pick medium venues that are music friendly and book an acoustic act at every event. Helping local businesses and local artists is a big part of what we are trying to do," Abston says.

So far, the group couldn't expect more. With each event, the community grows; two weeks ago at Fanatics in the Third Ward, over 200 people registered on the Newaukee sign-in to watch an early season Brewers game and meet other young professionals.

"There is no dress code. Some people wear suits, others wear jeans and Brewers garb. It's very casual with an emphasis on meeting new people," Abston says.

Starting just last February, the group breached 1,000 members in the first three months. They started with a skeleton crew of 25 members; each individual took on an officer position and offered skills in everything from photography to web design to marketing and promotion.

"When I first came to Milwaukee I was introduced to the "Six in the City" group and I thought they were really on to something great.  After that I got heavily involved in FUEL Milwaukee and met so many new people and was exposed to different events that every minute I spend here just got better.  I asked a few friends to meet me for drinks, we pitched the Newaukee idea and they all wanted to run with it," Abston says.

Newaukee literally is a self-run organization, open to the help of any individual wanting to take on a role and do their part. Utilizing communication systems like Facebook and Twitter, Newaukee has brought Milwaukee's networking into the hands-on realm; giving individual members a stake in Facebook messaging, twitter updates, emails and an online blog.

And key to Abston's vision, Newaukee is completely free to join.

The next Newaukee event is this Thursday, April 23 at the 5th Ward Pub and Grill. Members and non-members are invited to check out the event starting at 6 p.m.

Maureen Post Special to staff writer Maureen Post grew up in Wauwatosa. A lover of international and urban culture, Maureen received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

After living on the east side of Madison for several years, Maureen returned to Milwaukee in 2006.

After a brief stint of travel, Maureen joined as the city’s oldest intern and has been hooked ever since. Combining her three key infatuations, Milwaukee’s great music, incredible food and inspiring art (and yes, in that order), Maureen’s job just about fits her perfectly.

Residing in Bay View, Maureen vehemently believes the city can become fresh and new with a simple move across town.